The belief that “thin is beautiful” is pervasive in our culture.
Digital media such as the Internet and video games have become increasingly important in the lives of children and youth. Even when young people are consuming other media, such as TV, music and movies, they are likely to be doing it through the Internet. As well, nearly all the media they consume, from TV shows to toys, have Web pages, virtual worlds, video games or other digital spinoffs associated with them.
There are few media to which youth are exposed to as early as toys, which make up an important part of their media consumption throughout childhood: despite competition from electronics, half of children 14 and younger asked for toys for Christmas in 2011, a number that likely rises for younger children. As a result, the messages about body image that children get from toys may come at a time when they are still forming ideas about gender identity.
Intellectual property - Anything that comes into being through invention or artistic creation. When an intellectual property is also real property, it is possible to own one but not the other – so that owning a painting (real property right) does not automatically give you the right to make copies of it (intellectual property right).
What is intellectual property?: A novel? A film script? A joke? A cook book? A character in a TV show? A painting? The lyrics to a song? All of these are intellectual property.
In Canada, consumers have certain rights to use copyrighted material without permission or license from the owner of the copyright. These rights are defined in the Copyright Act as Fair Dealing exemptions and were redefined in the 2012 changes to the Act. A good knowledge of Fair Dealing can be extremely helpful in understanding what you and your students can do with media in class. It’s important to note that the Copyright Act provides very little definition for many of these terms; instead, most of the specifics of Fair Dealing have come from court rulings, and the new exemptions and other changes done in 2012 will likely also be further defined in the same way.
In this lesson students are introduced to the concept of “avatars” and share their experiences creating and playing avatars in video games and virtual worlds. They then create avatars using a program that is intentionally limited in terms of available body types and gender markers, first creating an avatar of their own gender and then of the opposite gender, and then discuss the program and relate it to representations of gender and body image in games and virtual worlds and in other media. Students then create avatars using a much more flexible version of the program and compare that experience to the more limited version. Finally, students use the more versatile program to create avatars that represent how they see themselves and how they would like others to see them online and reflect on the choices that went into creating them.
In this lesson, students talk about dressing up and taking on identities that are similar to or different from them. They are then introduced to the idea of avatars as a kind of “dressing up” inside video games and consider the ways in which the technical, generic and aesthetic limitations on avatar creation and customization affect their choices and their ability to represent themselves online.
In this lesson, students start by discussing the phenomenon of “selfies” and serve as experts in advising the teacher on the standards by which the “best” selfies are judged. They then discuss a number of statements taken from interviews with youth that highlight issues of self-representation, body image and gender standards, and learn about “photoshopping” images. Finally, students apply what they have learned by modifying an image that is at least 50 years old to meet “selfie” standards.